The Five Best Hikes Around Punta Arenas (That Aren’t In Torres del Paine)

Jon Davidson
4 min readJan 6, 2023

So you’ve given yourself ample time to explore Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful places on Earth. You came. You saw. Perhaps you’re tired of the crowds, or maybe, like me, you’ve already done pretty much every day hike in the park, don’t want to trek, and are still in search of more beauty. Maybe you are one of three people on Earth who hate looking at iconic mountains and turquoise lakes. However valid your reason for venturing outside the national park, here are the five best hikes near Punta Arenas, Chile that aren’t in Torres del Paine.

PARQUE NACIONAL PALE AIKE

Anywhere else, the moonscapes and craters of Pale Aike would attract scores of visitors. But here in the shadow of Torres del Paine, this otherworldly national park receives only about 9 visitors a day.

It's a great place to beat the crowds, take in barren, beautiful views, and see all kinds of endemic wildlife, from guanacos to ñandú to enormous rabbits. The park boasts four trails, although when I visited in January 2023, the lagoon was dry and devoid of flamingos, and therefore its trail wasn't recommended.

One of Los Pozos del Diablo.

If you have all day, hike the Laguna Ana to Cueva Pali Aike Trail. Throughout its 18 kilometers, you’ll take in archaeologically significant caves, lava flows, and more. If you simply want the highlights, hike the Morada del Diablo/Pozos del Diablo Trail. Its 7 rocky kilometers will transport you through explansive lava beds to enormous calderas, lava tubes, bizarre rock formations, and more! On a side note, no less than 15 mylodon (a large prehistoric mammal) skeletons have been found at this park. Perhaps you’ll find another.

Like most of Southern Chile, this park features intense, nonstop wind. Come prepared.

FARO SAN ISIDRO
Who wouldn't want to visit mainland South America's southernmost lighthouse? People who hate happiness, that's who. This relatively easy 8 km round trip trail, the majority of which is on the beach itself, features sweeping views of Tierra del Fuego, tide pools, moss-covered rocks, and lush forests. We even saw several breaching dolphins!

The views from Faro San Isidro.

Simply drive to the very end of Highway 9 and start hiking. This hike will take you about 3 to 4 hours roundtrip, and just before arriving at the lighthouse, you’ll pass what appears to be a run-down beachfront spa, complete with a wooden, fire-heated hot tub. Fascinating.

MONTE TARN
Monte Tarn, climbed by none other than Charles Darwin himself in 1834, shares a trailhead with Faro San Isidro and at 825 meters is still technically part of the Andes. Not for the faint of heart, this hike involves some scrambling, muddy bogs, and a heavy dose of that Patagonian wind. The views on top, though (if you’ve been lucky enough to hike on a clear day), will make you forget about your soggy feet, sore legs, and bad attitude.

Simply hike 500 meters down the Faro San Isidro Trail and scramble uphill at the Monte Tarn sign, traverse bogs and grassy slopes, and arrive at Monte Tarn's commanding summit, taking in vistas from the Strait of Magellan to the Darwin Range.

CUEVA DEL MILODON
Famous for the discovery of mylodon remains still covered in skin, Cueva del Milodon is a national monument that gives you three caves for the price of one. The star of the show, Cueva Grande, is only a 500-meter hike from the welcome center, and boasts a life-size mylodon sculpture as well as a walkway throughout its depths.

Looking to get in more steps? Hike the additional 8 km round trip to Cueva Mediana and Cueva Chica across a rocky expanse with sweeping views, and take a detour to Silla del Diablo, a huge, solitary, chair-shaped rock formation. Unless you're the devil himself, though, you're not allowed to sit on it. Sorry about that.

RESERVA NACIONAL MAGALLANES 
Just 20 minutes west of Punta Arenas, Reserva Nacional Magallanes is a hidden gem boasting rolling hills, mines, and cliffs. Oh, and like everywhere else, 60-kph winds.

Stellar views along the Garganta Alta trail.

The reserve features a variety of hikes, including a short, 1 km hike to Mirador Garganta Alta, a barren lookout replete with cliff and canyon views where you’ll get absolutely pummeled by gale-force gusts.

Circuito Las Lengas offers a more protected path and a much longer (9.8 km) route that takes you to stellar views of copper mines.

Despite its proximity to the city, you might just have this place to yourself. Enjoy the solitude and utter lack of 20something influencers taking selfies for the Gram.

I’d highly recommend adding all of these hikes to your Southern Chile itinerary. Don’t, however, visit them instead of heading to Torres del Paine, unless you’re an idiot or an absolute xenophobe.

Happy (and windy) trails!

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Jon Davidson

Mixologist. Entrepreneur. Author. Musician. Jesus follower. Mountain climber. Craft beer lover. Adventure blogger. 66 countries, 50 US states.